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Is functional chewing gum the answer to the category’s woes?

By Oliver Nieburg+

Last updated on 08-Jul-2014 at 10:32 GMT2014-07-08T10:32:29Z

Functional chewing gums could revive troubled gum category: Datamonitor. Photo credit Riverside Dental Group
Functional chewing gums could revive troubled gum category: Datamonitor. Photo credit Riverside Dental Group

Fortified chewing gums that go beyond dental could reinvigorate the stagnant global chewing gum market, according to a Datamonitor analyst.

“Chewing gum is shifting into a delivery system,” senior innovation analyst Mitsue Konishi told ConfectioneryNews. She touted fat burning and energy gums as rising stars.

The rise of functional gums

The global sugar free chewing gum category registered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3% between 2009 and 2013 to reach $10.6bn.

Over the same period, functional chewing gum grew faster at a CAGR of 4% to reach $2.6bn in 2013, representing 13% of the $19.7bn overall gum market.

The niche functional category is expected to further outpace the sugar free gum sector by growing 14% by 2018 to $3bn.

“Datamonitor Consumer’s Market Data Analytics forecasts global functional chewing gum sale will grow, particularly developing countries, such as India and China, expected to have a significant growth,” said Konishi.

The analyst said that innovation was needed to resurrect growth in the category, particularly in Japan which was among the worst hit by falling gum sales.

 “Japanese consumers of chewing gum are now an older generation that stick to traditional brands. The younger consumer is not quite attracted to the category,” she said.

“Functional chewing gum is traditionally focused on oral claims but now we see many other categories.”

Fat burning gum

Lotte Walking Plus capsiate chewing gum

Korean confectioner Lotte recently partnered with Ajinomoto, and C-store chain Lawson to develop Walking Plus capsiate chewing gum, which is fortified with a chili extract designed to help the body burn fat.

Konishi said that office workers may chew the gum on their walk to and from work. “This brings two actions together to engage consumers.”

“Lotte Walking Plus capsiate chewing gum is aiming to provide a convenient fitness solution to busy consumers.”

Cheaper than supplements

According to the analyst, fortified chewing gums offer a cheaper alternative to supplements.

Thomas Jahn, marketing manager for private label gum maker Fertin Pharma previously said that chewing gums had a big advantage over other delivery systems because functional ingredients were absorbed in the buccal cavity in the mouth rather than the gastrointestinal system, meaning the effect took a few minutes compared to 30-40 minutes.

Functional gum specialists Fertin Pharma and Zoft both use gum compression technology to ensure efficacy of active ingredients.  The method is similar to that used by the pharmaceutical industry.

Energy gums

Konishi flagged energy gums as a rising category within functional gum and said manufacturers were moving towards natural energy sources such as gurana instead of caffeine.

Last year, Wrigley launched Alert Caffeinated gum in the US, but pulled the product just weeks later after the US Food and Drug Administration said it was concerned by children’s exposure to caffeine in foods.

UK mineral water firm recently spotted an opportunity for a low-cost, caffeine-free energy gum and made its first move into the confectionery category with Raw gum, fortified with taurine and B-vitamins.

Big players

Mondelēz International recently discontinued its Trident Vitality range after slow sales.

Global gum leader Wrigley has previously explored functional gums beyond detail health. In 2011, it launched Orbit Balance Green Mint + Magnesium, which claimed to aid muscle building. It also launched Freestyle Thirst Quenching Sports Gum with Electrolytes in 2000. 

Number two player Mondelēz International also launched functional gum Trident Vitality in the US in 2011, which contained vitamins and ginseng. However, Trident confirmed on its Facebook page in Feburary this year that it had discontinued the range. "As for why, they simply weren't selling enough," it said.

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